The Arizona Immigration law: Power to the people or power from the people?

A couple weeks ago, Johana graduated from Provo High School. Along with many of her peers, she had been expecting to attend UVU this fall. Her career of choice: Education.  “Right now, I’m hoping to become a teacher,” she says.

Johana came, legally to the U.S., when she was 5 years old. Shortly after, their visas expired and Johana joined the undocumented population. “During high school, many councilors or advisors would say, ‘You can’t get this or that scholarship because you’re illegal,’ and I’m usually scared of cops, but they are supposed represent safety.” When asked if she’s aware of the Arizona law, she replied, “I’ve just stopped thinking about it because sometimes I feel hopeless…because the less you know about it, the less you worry about it. It can bring you down”.

Utah is among 12 other states that will propose a bill similar to Arizona’s.  According to Rep. Steve Sandstrom, an Orem republican, he has enough votes to make such legislation pass.  On his web site he states, “ Illegal immigration is negatively impacting our society and economy. I am committed to reverse this damaging trend.”

If he’s as diligent as he sounds, it could possibly be enforced as early as February of 2011.  Although this seems some distance away, it’s not the kind of solution some think will suffice for a monumental topic such as immigration.

Immigrants across the states protest against unjust racial profiling. Utah immigrants might be next. Courtesy of stock.xchng
Immigrants across the states protest against unjust racial profiling. Utah immigrants might be next. Courtesy of stock.xchng

UVU adjunct professor Paul Nibley suggests we are not addressing the root of the immigration problem. “You can keep giving people that have smallpox cough medicine, but it’s not going to solve the problem,” which he argues is drugs. Mexican cartels have for long been terrorizing residents on the border using drugs, kidnappings and smuggling people.  According to Nibley, “My observation is that if we made it legal to take drugs, we could sell drugs very cheaply.”

If Arizona’s attempt is ill guided, how long will it take before this game of chicken concludes?  By giving authorities the power to question people if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the U.S. illegally, we have essentially lost the trust of an entire community.

Many police officers have challenged the law and have spoken against it.  In an interview with KSL, Salt Lake City Police Chief, Chris Burbank, opposed the law adding, “Our first job, first and foremost, is to protect our community, and have people feel secure and safe in our community, and to do that without discriminating.”

Discrimination through racial profiling is a dead end. It’s not likely a white person would get questioned – however, I would, as would Johana and many others here in Utah because of my dark skin.

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